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GSBA: Filling a basketball need in the community
2020-11-09

Miranda Rocca-Circelli believed there was a need for another basketball club in Greater Sudbury.

Now, she knows that the need exists.

Just a couple of months after setting the wheels in motion for the Greater Sudbury Basketball Association (GSBA), Rocca-Circelli and company welcomed more than 225 young athletes to tryouts, a few weeks back, at the Sudbury Christian Academy.

There remains plenty of work ahead, to be sure, but the mother of two daughters with competitive basketball experience is adament that her early steps have been more than worthwhile.

"For me, I definitely like options in life," she said. "When it comes to youth sports, parents and players need to be able to assess what's viable and feasible for them. As the basketball community started to grow (in Sudbury), I quickly realized that there was only one (competitive) option."

"For us, it didn't work out as a viable option."

"My kids are incredibly passionate about basketball and I think, as any parent, you want to create a space for your kids to evolve and to hone in on their skills. I decided to create the GSBA as another option for my children and other families."

With plenty of business background to her credit, Rocca-Circelli began the work of building a foundation for a club that she hopes will continue to grow, to find its place within the Sudbury sporting landscape.

"For me, it's always been about identifying the need and then building the program," she said. "I think that I do that in different realms of my life. This is no different. One of the first things that we did, once we had a website, was to have a survey to gauge people's interest, just to try and get a sense about how much interest is out there in specific age groups, as well as what level of competition they are looking for."

In many ways, the timing was perfect.

While Rocca-Circelli is quick to note that her daughters are most definitely interested in the competitive stream of the sport that they love, the current environment will allow parents and athletes alike to more gradually find their way.

Though the GSBA was granted Basketball Ontario approval to run a pair of rep teams in 2020-2021, the truth is that no club, within the province, is truly running a standard rep program, at this time, given that tournaments and game play are a no go, due to the pandemic.

On a more local level, the fact remains that the old City of Sudbury proper has been without a recreational program for the past two years, with the former Sudbury Youth Basketball League on hiatus, though houseleague programs in both Valley East and Walden have remained active in 2018 and 2019 (and well before that).

"My goal, I think, was to try and get set up for maybe five teams," said Rocca-Circelli. "I thought that would be great. But then we had our tryouts, and more than 220 athletes registered, and now we have 14 teams."

"It was above and beyond what we anticipated and was an absolute validation, for me, that there was a need to start another club in the community."

The time will come, at some point, to decide on how exactly to break down the membership between competitive and recreational elements. For now, the GSBA will make the best of the hand that they have been dealt.

"Because of COVID, we still can give everyone the opportunity to train and learn and play basketball," she said. "There were a lot of people who came out who had never played ball before. Because they are all training together (in teams/hubs), this gives them an opportunity to build their skills towards next season."

"Our challenge, moving forward, is how do we create something that works for everybody, or at least the majority, and just try and fill that gap."

Thankfully, help has arrived.

"I have an amazing team with my board of directors and coaches, and everyone has been incredibly helpful in making sure that every player has a place to play," said Rocca-Circelli. "There were moments that I feared not finding coaches, and yet, in that same moment, I was able to find talented, experienced and incredibly passionate coaches."

"I really didn't know where to go to find qualified coaches in basketball," she added. "I was fortunate that they were just reaching out, and I am honoured to find these people."

And while their partnership with the Sudbury Christian Academy has provided far greater flexibility, in terms of a host venue, than other local sports clubs might enjoy, at the moment, the numbers are reaching their threshold.

"We're still getting people reaching out, asking if they can join, but we're at max capacity (though she said there is still some wiggle room with a couple of the girls teams), which is a challenge because in being inclusive, we really wanted to create opportunities for everyone."

Opportunities, that Miranda Rocca-Circelli now knows, needed to be addressed.

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